Justin time: Hodges set to return
They might lose one Australian Test and Queensland Origin star to suspension, but the Brisbane Broncos are set to welcome back another for Saturday night’s finals clash against the Warriors.
Forward Sam Thaiday is staring down a possible two-week suspension after he was charged with a grade two dangerous throw by the NRL Match Review Committee on Monday, but the Broncos are set to welcome back fellow international Justin Hodges from injury.
Brisbane captain Darren Lockyer said his side has the depth to cover the potential loss of their influential forward, while the return of Hodges will be a massive boost to the club.
“Thaiday is a Test player, a State-of-Origin player, so if he is out it will be a huge loss,” Lockyer said.
“But the Broncos this year, when we have had injuries or suspensions we have brought in young players and they have done the job.
“Our defence the last three or four weeks has been pretty solid and probably what won us the games; if Sam unfortunately can’t be there, Ben Te’o will fit into his role or Matt Gillett - there are plenty of options there.
“We’ll have to wait to see with injuries and possible suspensions what the final makeup of our team is, but having Justin back will be a big lift for the younger blokes in particular.”
Hodges injured his hamstring during a cold and wet Monday night fixture against the Newcastle Knights in Round 24, limping to the bench with his third such injury of the season.
But it is believed Hodges' injury is not as bad as first feared and he could have played against Manly on Sunday if required.
Hodges is set to return for Saturday night’s clash with the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium.
“He is a player that creates a lot of things from nothing,” Lockyer said.
“To have him back on the paddock, not just for himself, it will bring confidence to the rest of the team.”
It took a 79th minute Peter Wallace field goal for the Broncos to defeat the Warriors in Round 22, and they experienced first hand the attacking power the team from across the Tasman possesses.
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson announced himself to the rugby reague world in that contest with his swerving solo run a contender for try of the year.
Lockyer remembers it well.
“I hadn’t seen a lot of him until he scored that try against us at Suncorp and I was like, wow,” he said.
“I watched a little bit of the Warriors against the Cowboys the other night and he is going to be a potential superstar.
“They are playing a brand of football ... they have always been renowned for ad-lib football, but they are playing with a bit more composure with the footy. They still have the x-factor with guys like Locke, and the six and seven are going good. They are going to be a handful.
“Around the middle of the ground, around that ruck area, if you give them half a gap – like your Nathan Merritts, Brett Stewarts, (Billy) Slaters – if you give them too much space they are going to hurt you. We need to be good against their big guys up front.”
When asked who he thought the team to beat in this year’s final race was, the four-time premiership winner said there was nothing splitting the eight teams.
“It changes month to month: a month ago we were talking about Melbourne being unbeatable,” he said.
“The Dragons are back on track. It changes on a weekly basis, which does indicate that it is an open competition.
“You need a bit of luck to win a premiership. We are going to need some luck, but we will be there or thereabouts. I don’t know how far we are going to get; we don’t have too many injuries so hopefully we can keep building on our game and be there in a month’s time.”